For the umpteenth time it is not Tinubu’s fault!

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

We all found jest in fPMB’s question, laced in his hausa/ fulani accent, “where is the power?” 16 billion dollars dedicated to providing adequate electricity supply for Nigeria during the OBJ administration, and 4 administrations after, our power supply is as epileptic or even worse than when the billion dollar investment was made. Another 12 billion dollars went away to the Paris Club as debt re-payment by Nigeria, further drowning our foreign reserves, in a world where super power countries like Russia and China are offering debt rebates, rescheduling, and forgiveness, to third world countries. The Paris Club refunds that went to the States to pay off backlog of pensions and gratuities were not used for those purposes as most States still languish in the same problem. Imagine how productive we could be if there was real power supply today all over the country. Picture what the sum total of the two quoted billion dollar figures (28 billion dollars) from the power and Paris Club expenses could have done to our reserves if we had saved them? Better still invested them. Our ‘financial war chest’ would have been incredible. Anyway, 8 years after “where is the power”? Is there power now?

During the GEJ administration, Nigeria earned the most foreign exchange. It was Nigeria’s last oil boom era. Our foreign revenue earnings stood at 99.8 billion in 2011, 96.9 billion in 2012, and 97.8 billion in 2013. This is just as it had inherited 62 billion dollars as foreign reserves from the Yar’adua administration, which was an improvement from the 45 billion dollars Yar’adua also inherited from the OBJ administration. Nigeria failed to save or invest. The finance minister at the time, Dr. Mrs. Okonjo Iweala mounted pressure on the government to save and invest, but The Nigeria Governors Forum chose to receive the monies via their states, and eventually, non of the States were the better for it. 3 months to the end of the administration, the Federal Government was borrowing to pay salaries. Your guess is as good as mine what happened to the accrued billions of dollars. Your guess should also tally with what was happening to expenditure on infrastructure.

When the Buhari government came in, Nigeria was flat out broke. For eight months there wasn’t a dime to pay for a cabinet, and so there wasn’t even one. Oil revenues dwindled to its lowest as global oil prices fell. Just as we were beginning to recover with improving oil prices, the global economic crisis of 2016 set in. Then in 2019 the global pandemic followed up, letting all hell loose. We began to borrow again. 96% of whatever we could earn went to debt servicing. Millions of dollars were spent in defending the naira. Similar or more millions went to subsidy as global oil prices improved. Each time the government tried to remove subsidy, the polity over-heated and we continued with the psuedo-life of a rich country. The most violent protests in the country termed endsars, even though it was more about the harsh realities Nigerians were facing, almost consumed the government. Similar subsidy protests were actually instrumental in consuming the GEJ administration. Buhari paid heed to that bit of history and continued to shield us from our realities.

OBJ, Yar’adua, GEJ and fPMB administrations all shied away from taking the tough decisions that have eventually been taken by the Tinubu government. Not that he had any choice anyway. There was no provision for subsidy in the budget afterall, and our debts had risen to over a 100 billion dollars. They all failed in properly diversifying our economy, from its thoughtless over dependence on oil, whose production has plummeted to 1.5 million barrels from an average of 2.5 million barrels daily before now. The governments did not ensure we had food security, but unwittingly supported and encouraged importers with all sorts of incentives and waivers. From 1999 to date, we continued to bloat as an unproductive economy, registering as one of the world’s largest ‘consumption economies’. No thanks also to our corruption industry that has blossomed to answering its global acclaim as one of the most fantastic in the world. Then again, our banks also hold more forex than our foreign reserves probably. So we have finally arrived at today’s contraption borne out of the wastefulness of our economic management, our corruptive tendencies, and our insatiable appetite for consuming frivolities. Everything local is treated with disdain and at times even stigma. Only two years ago we christened our locally produced rice ‘local rice’, after the hugely sweaty efforts of the Buhari admin. You are considered poor to eat it. Even that was artificially hiked instead of having it at more affordable prices, as rice imports were banned. Our Marketers made sure our inflation rate continued to rise.

Today, President Tinubu is dealing with a lot of debris from the economic ruination that has piled up for over two decades. This is along with the insecurity that has become a lucrative industry of its own, crippling almost everything. In the FX market, he is confronted by speculators and bankers that have continually gamed the system over decades, maintaining their hold of the FX market where the true value of the naira is now a mystery. Just recently we went cap in hand to The AFREXIM Bank seeking 3.3 billion dollars just to be able to ‘breath’! But meanwhile, a few policies adopted by the CBN Governor has been able to raise 1 billion dollars within a week, through IMTOs from the long elusive diaspora remittances. Just recently, a raid, even if wrongly executed by Kano State Anti-corruption and Consumer Protection agency, has seen a sharp drop in the price of maize from about 65,000 naira a bag to about 45,000 a bag. So on the face of it all, there is absolutely nothing President Tinubu came with anew. He only removed the veil shielding us from our true situation and disclosed to us the real picture of our economy. The damage of 18 years cannot be reversed in 8 months. It is ridiculous to think or believe that. On his part, his government has to move more swiftly and righteously in fulfilling its pledges, aimed at ameliorating the pains of those hard decisions. These include new minimum wage, student loans, loans for Small Scale Industries, cheaper transport systems with CNG powered buses and gas stations – as some of the quick wins. Meanwhile, as the FG continues to accept the blame for everything bad in the country, where are the State Governments that are receiving triple the amount of revenue they used to receive before The Tinubu government removed ‘Almighty subsidy’? So there lies a huge chunk of the problem. It is right before us in our states for starters.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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